Disrupting white SUPREMACY: Black women’s COUNTERstories of working in UK Higher EDUCATION science, technology, engineering, & mathematics

discussion among women about racism must include the recognition and use of anger. This discussion must be direct and creative because it is crucial. We cannot allow our fear of anger to deflect us nor seduce us into settling for anything less than the hard work of excavating honesty; we must be quite serious about the choice of topic and the angers entwined within it because, rest assured, our opponents are quite serious about their hatred of us and what they are trying to do here


My doctoral research focuses on institutional racism and heteropatriarchal white supremacy in higher education (HE) providers, with a particular emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematic (STEM) departments. Informed by the affective work of Black feminism, critical race theory, critical whiteness studies, and Black queer studies, the research is unapologetic in confronting the reproduction of white privilege, and how this reproduction is constructed and maintained through β€˜ordinary’ acts of racism, sexism, microaggressions, and surveillance, that are utilised as a means to infantilise and objectify people of colour, particularly Black women, inside HE.

The project intends to disrupt marginalisation and spirit injury. It seeks to put Black feminist affective politics into social research practice, with the aim to create a space where resources can be developed, revised, and shared so as to collectively build strategies for survival, resistance, and transformation for Black women working in HE STEM, as well as pushing white people to acknowledge whiteness, and take accountability for white supremacy. That is, white people must be made to feel the uncomfortability of whiteness, if they are to truly be white accomplices to women of colour.


The research project is lead wholly by the life stories of Black women of African and Caribbean descent, at PhD level and above, engaged in UK higher education (HE) science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), as told to me by them. The project is one of solidarity and resolution. The study seeks to confront, head on, institutional racism, and its affective intersections with sexism, classism, and white supremacy in HE STEM, and universities more generally. The research intends to bring to the forefront the issue of subtle prejudices, and the pervasive harms that occur as a result of these prejudices β€” and how Black women in STEM resist as a means to navigate through the mechanisms of racism, sexism and exclusion that operate in white spaces, so as to aid social justice and inclusion in HE STEM.

The study follows a strict women, and non-white only citation policy. I draw upon thinkers such as Patricia Hill Collin, Heidi Mirza, Nirmal Puwar, Jennifer Nash, Sara Ahmed, Sharon Patricia Holland, Patricia William, Frantz Fanon, Jasbir Puar, and everything Audre Lorde.

I implement the ethics of care and personal accountability when developing my methodological framework. This is crucial to my research, as the topic is motivated by a necessity to confront a supremacist system. My goal in listening to the experiences of the women who choose to participate in the project, is to provide a faithful representation of their life stories. I am not striving for an objective account, rather an account that they recognize as true.

Furthermore as a responsible researcher documenting the stories of these women, I must address my own personal accountability and how that plays a role in my research. This manifests through caring relationships between researcher and participants, which includes ongoing member checking, transparent and collaborative discussions regarding the development of the research, and how best we can implement the research together to tackle an increasingly more intelligent breed of racism and prejudice in higher education. It is imperative that I not only meet the standards of vigilant qualitative research, but also my own personal standards – it must be both a accurate account of the experiences of the participants, and a useful tool in the fight for epistemic and social justice.

For more information on the research methodology click here. 

For frequently asked questions click here. 

Download the project poster here.


In the spirit of STS and its interdisciplinarity, I am being co-supervised by sociologist and theorist of social justice and science education Dr Emily Dawson (emily.dawson@ucl.ac.uk) and philosopher of science Dr Chiara Ambrosio (c.ambrosio@ucl.ac.uk)

If you would like to take part in the project or have any questions and/or suggestions regarding my research, please don’t hesitate to contact me on: katherine.cecil.15@ucl.ac.uk, or drop me a message below. 


Name *